I won’t, of course, seeing as it wouldn’t be very practical. But, you know, a girl can dream! My idea of luxury is having a house with a dedicated reading room: somewhere with wall-to-wall books, a cosy woollen armchair, a dog to curl up by my feet and, best of all, unlimited time to read and think. An old English country estate, with a large house and extensive grounds, would suit my requirements perfectly.
But, alas, I don’t have millions in the bank, and I don’t actually spend much money on books anyway. Most of the books I read are galley copies, also known as advance reader copies (ARC), and I usually get them through publishers or NetGalley. They are uncorrected proof copies which publishers distribute to generate some publicity and get people talking ahead of the official publication of a book.
The books that I’m reading usually haven’t been published yet, so I’m getting a sneak preview of what’s coming up in the literary world. Very often, I’ll read an ARC of a book and then a few months’ later, I’ll see it prominently displayed in bookstores. It’s a nice feeling: I feel like I was let in on a secret by getting to read the book before it was released and it didn’t cost me any money!
If you want to try getting advance reader copies, a Google search will give you plenty of information, such as this post by The Bluestocking Society. Publishers will generally only give ARCs out to people who are going to review them on their website, blog or other internet channels. If you have an established blog, you’re probably going to stand more of a chance in getting on the galley copy circuit.
Producing ARCs costs publishers money and authors don’t earn any royalties from them, so they want to make sure that the people receiving the ARC will review the book (on their blog, on Amazon, on Goodreads etc.) and get other people interested in reading it too.
I love being able to read and review advance copies, but sometimes there are books that I want to read and there’s simply no other option than to buy them. Here’s a glimpse at some of the books on my current literary wish list.
Olivia Laing – The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone
In this book, Laing explores the episodes of daily loneliness that she experienced when she moved to New York City in her mid-thirties. Her personal experience with loneliness after moving to that great, thrumming metropolis left her questioning “some of the larger questions of what it is to be alive”.
Moving between a memoir of her personal experience and an exploration of four artists (Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, Henry Darger, and David Wojnarowicz), Laing’s book is part-memoir and part-reflection on how creativity can be interwoven with loneliness.
Mary Oliver – Upstream: Selected Essays
This collection of essays from the wonderful poet, Mary Oliver, has been on my wish list since it was published in October 2016.
Her essays cover thoughts on writing, creativity, and the natural world in her beautiful, reflective style. I’ve written before about how I find her poems deeply meaningful and how enjoyable they are to read. I think her essay collection is a book that I’ll be purchasing very soon!
To read more about Mary Oliver, Brain Pickings has an excellent selection of articles, which you can find by clicking here.
Mary Oliver – Dog Songs
This collection of poems, together with a concluding essay, celebrates the bond between humans and dogs.
With quotes from Oliver’s poems and a wonderful review of the book itself, here’s another Brain Pickings article: Mary Oliver on What Dogs Teach Us About the Meaning of Our Human Lives.
“Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as well as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. What would the world be like without music or rivers or the green and tender grass? What would this world be like without dogs?”
Steven Pinker – The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century
This practical book from eminent linguist, psychologist and cognitive scientist, Steven Pinker, looks at how to apply the science of language and mind to aid in producing good writing.
This isn’t a pedantic, stuffy style guide — the reviews praise Pinker’s witty and entertaining style, which is also practical and draws on empirical evidence from linguistics and psychology.
I’m always interested in finding ways to improve my writing, and anything about linguistics grabs my attention too.
So, tell me, what books are on your literary wish list right now?